Police have suspect in Yale murder

September 15, 2009 by  
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MIDDLETON, CT — According to the Associated Press police in Connecticut say they’ve executed search warrants on a person of interest in the slaying of a Yale University graduate student.

737yalevictimThey say two search warrants for DNA and other physical evidence have been served at the apartment of 24-year-old Raymond Clark III. Clark was handcuffed and escorted out of the apartment building and into a silver car. No charges have been filed.

Authorities say Clark will be released after police get the evidence they need from him and his apartment. The New Haven police chief isn’t describing Clark as a suspect. He says police are hoping to compare DNA taken from him to more than 150 pieces of evidence collected from the crime scene.

Graduate student Annie Le vanished one week ago. Her body was found in the basement of a research building at on campus at Yale.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Multiple national news networks reported Monday that police investigating the murder of a Yale University graduate student have a suspect in the case.

ABC News and MSNBC reported that the person failed a lie-detector test and had what could be defensive wounds.

Police are hunting for the killer who stuffed a body believed to be that of a Annie Le behind a wall in the high-security laboratory building where she worked.

Police found the body around 5 p.m. Sunday, on what was to have been 24-year-old Le’s wedding day.

An autopsy was underway on Monday to verify the identity of the body, found in a cable duct in the Yale medical school building. Police would not say Monday if they have a suspect, but said that nobody is in custody.

“We’re not believing it’s a random act,” said Officer Joe Avery, a police spokesman. He would not provide any further details, but said no one else is in danger.

The building where the body was found is part of the university medical school complex about a mile from Yale’s main campus and is accessible to Yale personnel with identification cards. Some 75 video surveillance cameras monitor all doorways.

“It’s a frightening idea that there’s a murderer walking around on campus,” said 20-year-old Muneeb Sultan, a chemistry student. “I’m shocked that it happened in a Yale building that had key-card access. It’s really sad.”

Police have not provided any details on the condition of the body found or how the woman died.

A friend said Monday the doctoral student never showed signs of worry about her own personal safety at work, although she did express concerns about crime in New Haven in an article she wrote last year.

“If she was concerned about (it) she would have said something to someone and they would have known,” Jennifer Simpson told CBS’ “The Early Show.” ”And Jon (her fiance) would have known, her family would have known, friends would have known.”

Simpson called Le, a pharmacology student from Placerville, Calif., friendly and affable to everyone.

“She was a people person,” Simpson said. “She loved people. She loved life. We just can’t imagine anybody wanting to harm Annie.”

Another friend, Laurel Griffeath, echoed those thoughts on NBC’s “Today” show.

“I can’t even imagine someone mad at Annie, much less wanting to hurt her,” Griffeath said.

Police are analyzing what they’re calling “a large amount” of physical evidence.

They will not discuss suspects, other than to say Le’s fiance is not a suspect and has assisted in the investigation.

Campus officials have said that the security network recorded Le entering the building by swiping her ID card about 10 a.m. on Sept. 8, and have been baffled before Sunday’s gruesome discovery that she was never seen leaving.

The university planned a candlelight vigil at 8 p.m. Monday at the Ivy League university. The Yale Daily News says an e-mail to the Yale community invites participants to “bring a candle and join us in solidarity.”

Yale President Richard Levin offered support to Le’s family and her fiance, Columbia University graduate student Jonathan Widawsky. The couple was to marry Sunday in Syosset, N.Y., on Long Island’s north shore.

“The family and fiance and friends now must suffer the additional ordeal of waiting for the body to be positively identified,” Levin said.

Le wrote an article that was published in February in the medical school’s magazine. The piece, titled “Crime and Safety in New Haven,” compared higher instances of robbery in New Haven with cities that house other Ivy League schools. It also included an interview with Yale Police Chief James Perrotti, who offered advice such as “pay attention to where you are” and “avoid portraying yourself as a potential victim.”

“In short, New Haven is a city and all cities have their perils,” Le concludes. “But with a little street smarts, one can avoid becoming yet another statistic.”

Le, who worked in a laboratory in the five-story building’s basement, was reported missing Sept. 8. Her ID, money, credit cards and purse were found in her third-floor office.

More than 100 local, state and federal police had been searching the building for days, using blueprints to uncover any place where evidence or Le’s body could be hidden.

Investigators on Saturday said they recovered evidence from the building, but would not confirm media reports that the items included bloody clothing.

Authorities also sifted through garbage at a Hartford incinerator Sunday, looking through trash that was taken from the building in the days since Le went missing.

No one answered the door at the Widawskys’ gray, ranch-style in Huntington, N.Y. on Monday.

“He is a very nice young man,” next-door neighbor George Mayer said of Jonathan Widawsky. “His family, they’re all just wonderful people — very, very nice people.”

Both families belong to the same temple.

Mayer, whose mother had been invited to the wedding, said he hopes whoever committed the crime “gets justice — that he gets whatever he deserves.”

Yale students on Monday called the finding sad, but some said the discovery doesn’t make them feel less safe at Yale.

“Obviously it’s a city and there are safety concerns,” said 18-year-old Peter Spaulding, a student from Maryland. “It can happen anywhere. You have to go on with life.”

Law student Lindsay Nash of West Chester, Pa., said she doesn’t sense a heightened level of fear on campus.

“There’s always an attention to safety here,” she said. “I think there’s perception that you need to be careful regardless.”

Broward deputy faces additional sexual assault charges

August 25, 2009 by  
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Deputy Jonathan Bleiweiss, accused of preying on homeless men and illegal immigrants, remains jailed without bail

BROWARD COUNTY – A Broward sheriff’s deputy who was arrested on charges he stalked and sexually assaulted men searched police records to obtain photos and personal data on more than two dozen men and five prisoners he met while on duty, court documents show.

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Investigators found the information, printed from law enforcement databases, in a wooden chest in Deputy Jonathan Bleiweiss’ bedroom, according to a search warrant filed Monday in Broward Circuit Court. The printouts also carried added notations, for instance “HOT JEEP GUY” and “HOT GUY IN TOYOTA ECHO,” said investigators, who matched the printouts to an activity log on Bleiweiss’ computer at work.

Bleiweiss, 29, initially faced 15 criminal charges stemming from one man’s allegations, but on Monday prosecutors added seven counts — including stalking, armed false imprisonment and sexual battery — relating to a second man’s statement. At least six other men have levied allegations against Bleiweiss, saying the deputy fondled, assaulted, threatened and harassed them. The men are all undocumented immigrants and almost didn’t report the incidents because they feared reprisal, officials said.

The second man told investigators that Bleiweiss pulled him over early one morning in April or May in Oakland Park and ordered him to sit in the backseat of the patrol car, where Bleiweiss then reportedly performed oral sex on him.

“Immediately afterwards, Jonathan Bleiweiss grabbed his flashlight and radio and exited the vehicle, asking [the victim] if he would like to do it again in the future,” Detective Graciela Benito wrote in an arrest report released Tuesday.

The alleged victim said that Bleiweiss pulled him over again three days later and fondled him.

Investigators said they could find no written record of the traffic stops.

Bleiweiss has been held at the Broward County Jail without bond since his arrest Aug. 3.

He remains employed by the Sheriff’s Office but has been suspended without pay. The criminal investigation is ongoing, as is an internal investigation by the Sheriff’s Office.

Before his arrest, Bleiweiss’ image was that of an openly gay deputy who excelled at his job and was a leader in the local gay community.

After his arrest, though, homeless men and undocumented immigrants in Oakland Park have come forward to tell reporters that they despised and feared Bleiweiss because he often harassed them for no reason.

People fed up with sky-high power bills

August 25, 2009 by  
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VERO BEACH, FL – Kevin Beverly turned on his lights because he knew we were coming.

He sits in the dark most of the time.

Beverly keeps the air conditioner set at 78 or higher, even though his daughters need to stay cool.  The two girls suffer from epilepsy and heat increases the likelihood of a seizure.

Still, the electricity bill often tops $400, $500, even $600.

Beverly lives in unincorporated Indian River County but gets his power from the city of Vero Beach.

Vero Beach gets electricity from Florida Municipal Power Agency, which recently raised its rates to offset projected fuel costs.

“The FMPA literally almost doubled their costs to us,” says Vero Beach Customer Service Manager John Lee.

“We got a bill from them last month for $6.2 million.  By contract, we are obligated to get that from our customers.  We don’t tax it, we don’t take any profit, we send it right back to them.”

Lee says customers will soon get a break.

The contract with FPMA ends in January and Vero Beach will start getting its power from the Orlando Utilities Commission.

Lee says though the base rate for power will increase, the average homeowner’s bill should drop about 20%.

Any savings on the electricity bill will not kick in until January and Vero Beach customers will still pay more than customers of Florida Power and Light.

Beverly says he’s not sure how he’ll even make it to the first of the year.

He’s asked the city repeatedly for help.

“Oh our hands are tied, that’s the answer we would get,” Beverly says.  “Or it’s going to get worse before it gets better.  And who knows if better’s coming January 1st.”

Water and sewer rates will also increase, costing the average homeowner $11 more per month next year.

The Vero Beach City Commission will discuss the proposed hikes September 1st and vote on them September 15th.

Source: wptv.com

Dogfighters get creative as Vick spotlight fades

August 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Crime, Featured, National News, Top Stories

(CNN) — When pro quarterback Michael Vick pleaded guilty to bankrolling a dogfighting operation in 2007, there was a spike in reports of dogfighting in the United States.

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But when the headlines faded, the blood sport grew stronger and went even more underground, with thugs taking inventive precautions to keep police at bay, animal cruelty experts say.

“They know it’s just not smart to have large crowds anymore, so we’ve seen fights where you’ve got the two handlers, a referee and Web cams everywhere broadcasting the fight on the Internet,” said Mark Kumpf, an investigator based in Ohio who directs the National Animal Control Association.

Fights are also being staged on the move — in 18-wheelers. “These guys are very sophisticated,” Kumpf said. “If you’re driving down the road, there could be dogs in that truck driving next to you that are dying.”

Dozens more dogfighting cases have been investigated and prosecuted since the Vick case, said Alison Gianotto, who runs the database PetAbuse.com.

The computer programmer, horrified when a neighbor’s cat was set on fire eight years ago, created the California-based organization to track animal cruelty cases and animal abusers.

The database, which logs media stories, has also become a popular place for law enforcement to send reports.

“There’s not a central body keeping track of what’s happening nationally, which is unfortunate when you consider that a lot of these cases cross state lines,” she said.

Still, detectives, animal welfare professionals and prosecutors agree that the attention the Vick case has brought to dogfighting has been positive because more people are inclined to report their suspicions. Dogfighting is illegal in all states; penalties vary but usually include heavy jail time or steep fines.

The National Football League suspended Vick indefinitely in August 2007 after he pleaded guilty to a federal charge of bankrolling a dogfighting operation at a home he owned in Virginia. Vick, 29, was freed from federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, on May 20 and returned to Virginia to serve the last two months of his 23-month sentence in home confinement.

“At the height of attention on the Vick case, things quieted down across the country with some of these dogfighters getting out of the business,” veteran animal abuse investigator Tim Rickey said. “But then, the headlines went away, and people thought the attention was off. It just started right back up, almost stronger than before.”

“Every Saturday night in every county in Missouri, there is a dogfight going on,” Rickey said.

While the Vick case was making its way through the court system, Rickey, who directs the animal cruelty task force at the Humane Society of Missouri, was initiating what would become an 18-month investigation linking dogfighting rings in eight states.

That probe led to the July 8 arrest of 28 people from eight states. As many as 400 dogs were confiscated in raids coordinated by federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, Rickey said. He said it was the largest such case involving dogfighting in the U.S.

While those involved with the national case declined Monday to give details about that investigation, CNN spoke with several detectives across America who have worked other dogfighting cases. Among the abuses they’ve uncovered:

• Dogs with missing ears and patches of skin

• Animals with teeth shaved down to the bone

• “Vets” who have used leg splints that are to tight to “treat” animals in dogfighting rings

• Contraptions, usually fashioned out of wood, much like a treadmill, that force chained dogs to run or be choked.

Detective Keith Coberly of the police vice squad in Dayton, Ohio, described a case he recently investigated that resulted in the convictions of three men.

A neighbor called police when she saw a mangled dog that had apparently escaped from a home where investigators found 60 chained pit bull terriers, many being starved and wallowing in their own waste. There were thousands of hypodermic needles scattered across the ground.

“They were using steroids on the animals,” he said. “There was one dog — in such bad shape, man — tethered to a logging chain, and another was kept in a two-foot shed without ventilation or food.”

The suffering is incalculable, and the cost of caring for the animals is steep.

Because the national investigation originated in Missouri, the state is harboring about 400 of the rescued dogs, some that have had puppies recently.

“These dogs are bred to attack each other, so just caring for them is a tremendous job. You have to keep them separate, and you have to protect volunteers who are devoting 12, 14 hours of their day,” Rickey said. “And we’re doing all of that in this economy.”

Investigating dogfighting is dangerous — and hugely popular in Russian mafia circles and with drug traffickers in Mexico, experts say.

Dogfighting is reliant on word of mouth, and on what one undercover officer described as “bad character” references. “If you can get someone to vouch for you, a match is set up,” Kumpf said. “They’ll have everyone go to a hotel and come pick you up and drive you around in an unmarked van.” Driving around town helps shake any police tail, he said.

Those betting on fights aren’t likely to get paid on site any more. Money is often kept at another location, making it more difficult to make arrests.

In late July, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell conditionally reinstated Vick, who said on “60 Minutes” on Sunday night that he cried in prison because of the guilt he felt about dogfighting.

Vick’s agent announced Thursday that the former Atlanta Falcon signed a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles, which reportedly could be worth more than $6 million.

“I hope people realize [dogfighting] is not just about Michael Vick,” Rickey said. “It’s a lot bigger than him.”

Deadly Jupiter crash on I-95 Kills 2 People

August 16, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured, Local News, Vehicle Accidents

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Two people are dead after a crossover accident on I-95, according to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue and Florida Highway Patrol.

It happened just south of Indiantown Road near Jupiter.

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Officials say a red pickup truck crossed the median hitting a Toyota carrying the two victims.

The driver of the pickup truck was transported to Saint Mary’s Medical center with non-life threatening injuries.

Source: wptv.com

Record number foreclosure filings posted in July

August 13, 2009 by  
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Foreclosure plague: No cure yet

The housing market is still sick, with a record number of foreclosure filings posted in July.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) — The foreclosure plague continued to devastate last month.

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There were more than 360,000 properties with foreclosure filings — including default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — an increase of 7% from June and 32% from July 2008, according to RealtyTrac, an online marketer of foreclosed homes. In fact, one in every 355 U.S. homes had at least one filing during July.

“July marks the third time in the last five months where we’ve seen a new record set for foreclosure activity,” said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. “Despite continued efforts by the federal government and state governments to patch together a safety net for distressed homeowners, we’re seeing significant growth in both the initial notices of default and in the bank repossessions.”

The jump occurred as several foreclosure moratoriums phased out. They were initiated by many states to give the administration’s foreclosure-prevention efforts time to work. But for many help did not come: The modification and refinancing programs have met with less success than hoped.

“It’s starting to reach more and more people, but we have to do better and make sure the program reaches the millions of folks we intended it to reach,” said Jared Bernstein, an economics adviser to vice president Biden.

The picture would be even worse, however, without the programs.

“Each of these programs nips away at the problem of excess supply,” said Doug Duncan, cheif economist for Fannie Mae, “and fights against declining prices. … The hope is that the aggregated programs will result in less loss than would happen in the free market.”

Out of their homes

RealtyTrac statistics revealed that more than 87,000 properties were repossessed by lenders, effectively sending many families out of their homes. There have been a total of 464,058 repossessions — or REOs in industry parlance — so far this year (through the end of July).

“We’re seeing more option ARM resets, triggering defaults and more prime loans, which are failing due to job losses,” said RealtyTrac spokesman Rick Sharga.

That is resulting in more filings on higher priced homes, for two reasons: 1. option ARMs were typically used for more expensive properties; 2. borrowers using prime loans generally had better credit and were able to afford more expensive houses.

Best and worst

The worst hit areas continue to be in the “sand states,” with California posting the highest number of total filings, 108,104, and Nevada posting the highest rate of foreclosure at one for every 56 homes.

The other hardest hit states are Arizona, at one filing for every 135 homes, and Florida, at one for every 154. Las Vegas, with one for every 47 homes, had the highest rate among metro areas. That’s Sin City’s 31st consecutive month topping the list.

These were bubble states, where home prices soared and banks financed mortgages for anyone who could fog a mirror.

“We’re seeing the highest levels of foreclosures in the markets that had the highest appreciation [during the boom] and the worst lending practices,” said Sharga.

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