Holly Bobo trial: Defense blames 'Chester the Molester' for killing

Sep 19, 2017 3
Terry Britt is asked questions by State prosecutor Jennifer Nicols during the Holly Bobo murder trial, Monday, Sept. 18, 2017, in Savannah, Tenn. Zachary Adams pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, raping and killing Bobo, who was 20 when she disappeared from her home in Parsons on April 13, 2011. (Kenneth Cummings/The Jackson Sun via AP, Pool)

Terry Britt, aka ‘Chester the Molester,’ is questioned by prosecutor Jennifer Nichols Monday during the Holly Bobo murder trial in Savannah, Tenn.  (Kenneth Cummings/The Jackson Sun)

Attorneys for the man accused of killing Tennessee nursing student Holly Bobo argued Tuesday that investigators had arrested the wrong person and attempted to raise suspicions about a local sex offender known locally as “Chester the Molester.”

Terry Dicus, the former lead investigator in the case for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), testified that he had ruled out Zachary Adams as a suspect shortly after Bobo disappeared in April 2011.

Instead, Dicus said, he had focused on Terry Britt, who has multiple convictions for sex offenses dating back to the 1970s and lived near the Bobo home in Decatur County, about 100 miles southwest of Nashville.

Former Tennessee Bureau of Investigation criminal investigator Terry Dicus is questioned by Assistant District Attorney Paul Hagerman during day eight of the Holly Bobo murder trial, Tuesday, Sept. 19, in Savannah, Tenn. Zachary Adams is charged with felony first-degree murder, especially aggravated kidnapping, aggravated rape in the death of Holly Bobo. (Kenneth Cummings/The Jackson Sun via AP, Pool)

Former Tennessee Bureau of Investigation criminal investigator Terry Dicus is questioned by Assistant District Attorney Paul Hagerman Tuesday.  (Kenneth Cummings/The Jackson Sun)

“His alibi was garbage,” Dicus said of Britt, who told investigators he and his wife were doing renovations on their home at the time of Holly’s disappearance. The investigator said Britt claimed he and his wife had gone shopping for a new bathtub at a certain store, but employees could not remember seeing anyone who matched Britt’s description that day.

Dicus added that Britt’s voice was similar to a voice Holly’s brother heard the morning of her disappearance and claimed that Britt may have changed his appearance after Holly vanished.

Dicus said he ruled out Adams as a suspect after cross-referencing pings from his and Holly’s phones the morning of the disappearance.

“I’m trying to put together a puzzle,” Dicus said. “If I find five pieces that don’t fit, I’m done. If I find two pieces, I’m done. It’s not this person. You may disagree with me that that wasn’t enough but all you really have to have is one fact that says this person couldn’t have kidnapped her and you need to go do something else.”

Investigators were suspicious enough of Britt to wiretap his phone and bug his house. Dicus added that cadaver dogs picked up scents of human decomposition near shovels, an ax and a hammer at Britt’s home.

However, Dicus admitted that he didn’t think all the dogs that searched Britt’s home were accurate, and Britt was never arrested in connection with Bobo’s disappearance.

Dicus was removed from the case in 2013. Bobo’s remains were found in woods near her home in September 2014.

Under cross-examination, Dicus admitted that he was not aware of alleged statements by Adams that connected him to Bobo’s disappearance. Acquaintances and friends of Adams — as well as fellow jail inmates — have testified that he made comments about harming Bobo.

Adams has pleaded not guilty to kidnapping, raping and killing Bobo. He faces the death penalty if convicted of first degree murder.

Adams’ brother, John Dylan Adams, faces the same charges. His trial has not been set.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

White man arrested in slayings of 2 black men in Louisiana

Sep 19, 2017 1

A 23-year-old white man was arrested Tuesday and accused of cold-bloodedly killing two black men and shooting up a black family’s home in a string of attacks last week that police say may have been racially motivated.

A law enforcement official said authorities found a handwritten copy of an Adolf Hitler speech at Kenneth James Gleason’s home, and investigators said surveillance footage and DNA on a shell casing link him to the crimes.

Authorities said he would be charged with first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of a homeless man and a dishwasher who was walking to work. In each case, the killer opened fire from his car, then walked up to the victim as he lay on the ground and fired again repeatedly, police said.

“I feel confident that this killer would have killed again,” interim Police Chief Jonny Dunnam said.

Gleason’s attorney, J. Christopher Alexander, said his client “vehemently denies guilt, and we look forward to complete vindication.”

Authorities found the Hitler speech during a search over the weekend, according to the law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still going on.

Asked whether police suspect the shootings were motivated by race, Sgt. L’Jean McKneely said: “We’re not completely closed off to that. We’re looking at all possibilities at this time, so we’re not going to just pinpoint that.”

District Attorney Hillar Moore said he may seek the death penalty.

“It appears to be cold, calculated, planned (against) people who were unarmed and defenseless,” he said.

Authorities also said that just after midnight on Sept. 10, Gleason fired into the home of a black family who lived three houses down from Gleason and his parents.

Resident Tonya Stephens said her two adult sons were home at the time and she was away at her nurse’s job. Three bullets pierced the front door and struck furniture, but no one was hurt.

Stephens said her family had seen Gleason sleeping in his car or speeding down the street, but she never had any dealings with him and “I never paid him any mind.”

In the other shootings, neither victim had any connection to Gleason, investigators said.

The first killing occurred Sept. 12, when 59-year-old Bruce Cofield, who was homeless, was gunned down. The second took place last Thursday night, when 49-year-old Donald Smart was shot on his way to his job at a cafe popular with Louisiana State University students.

Authorities said ballistics tests determined that the same gun was used in all three shootings. Also, they said DNA found on one of the shell casings matched genetic material on a swab they took from Gleason.

Investigators have not found the 9 mm gun but said Gleason bought such a weapon last November. He also ordered a silencer in July, but it had not arrived yet — “thankfully,” the prosecutor said.

One of the big breaks in the case came when a security company noticed a white man in a red car removing his license plate and perhaps putting a gun in the trunk while parked at the company’s office.

The company reported the suspicious activity to police and followed up with them after the second shooting, giving authorities surveillance video and photographs. Investigators found Gleason’s red car on Saturday.

Louisiana’s capital city is in the grips of a surge in bloodshed. The number of homicides in East Baton Rouge Parish has already surpassed last year’s total of 62, The Advocate newspaper reported this month.

“Baton Rouge has been through a lot of turmoil in the last year,” the police chief said. If not for Gleason’s arrest, “he could have potentially created a tear in the fabric that holds this community together.”

Racial tensions escalated in the city in the summer of 2016 when a black man was shot to death by white police officers outside a convenience store. About two weeks later, a black gunman targeted police in an ambush, killing three officers and wounding three before he was shot to death.

The city of approximately 229,000 is about 55 percent black and 40 percent white.

Gleason did not appear to have any active social media profiles. A Louisiana State University spokesman said a student by that name attended from the fall of 2013 to the fall of 2014 before withdrawing. He had transferred to LSU from Baton Rouge Community College.

Gleason was arrested in Phoenix in December on charges of shoplifting wine and razors. Police said he was homeless at the time. The case was dismissed after he completed a diversion program.

During the search of Gleason’s home, authorities also found 9 grams of marijuana and vials of human growth hormone, according to police.

___

Associated Press Writer Bob Christie in Phoenix contributed to this report.

Hurricane Maria's path: Track the storm here

Sep 19, 2017 1

Hurricane Maria, the powerful Category 5 storm that already ravaged Dominica, is “expected to pass the U.S. Virgin Islands tonight and over Puerto Rico on Wednesday,” the National Hurricane Center said late Tuesday afternoon. 

It briefly downgraded to a Category 4 storm Monday night after it hit the Caribbean island but had elevated again to the strongest hurricane classification by Tuesday.

As Maria continues in the Atlantic Ocean, it threatens Caribbean islands already left devastated by Hurricane Irma a few weeks ago. A hurricane warning has been issued for the U.S. Virgin Islands where many people have been left without food, water or shelter.

Below is what you should know about Maria’s path.

Where is Maria today?

Hurricane Maria is about 80 miles southeast of Saint Croix, the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, and 175 miles southeast of San Juan, Puerto Rico, the National Hurricane Center said in its 5 p.m. ET advisory Tuesday.

HURRICANE WARNING VS. WATCH: HOW ARE THEY DIFFERENT?

The storm is traveling west-northwest at 10 mph with maximum sustained winds of 165 mph, the National Hurricane Center said.

What else should I know about the hurricane?

Maria is on a similar path as Hurricane Irma, the powerful storm that hit the Caribbean as a powerful Category 5 storm earlier this month. A FEMA spokesman told Fox News that it appears Maria could impact Saint Croix more than Saint Thomas or Saint John, the two islands hit the hardest by Irma. Saint Croix, the largest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, had largely been providing aid to its sister islands.

Saint John was left without basic necessities, shelter and power after Irma. Many residents have been unable to evacuate ahead of Maria, they told Fox News.

WHAT IS THE SAFFIR-SIMPSON SCALE?

The U.S. Virgin Islands, along with the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Saint Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat, Culebra and Vieques, are under hurricane warnings, the National Hurricane Center said Tuesday. Also under a hurricane warning is Cabo Engano to Puerto Plata, it said. 

“A warning means that hurricane conditions are expected whereas a watch means that conditions are possible,” according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Ocean Service

Forecasters predicted that Maria can fluctuate in strength over the next couple of days but will “remain an extremely dangerous” Category 4 or 5 storm as it moves toward the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Maria already ravaged the Caribbean nation of Dominica, leaving “widespread devastation,” according to Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit.

“So far we have lost all what money can buy and replace,” Skerrit said. “I am honestly not preoccupied with physical damage at this time, because it is devastating … Indeed, mind boggling. My focus now is in rescuing the trapped and securing medical assistance for the injured.” 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

Navy makes changes after series of deadly crashes

Sep 19, 2017 0
Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer, left, listens to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, during a Senate Armed Services hearing, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin  (Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer, left, listens to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, during a Senate Armed Services hearing Tuesday on Capitol Hill in Washington.)

The outgoing head of the U.S. Navy’s surface forces outlined changes Monday to how American warships should operate at sea following a series of deadly crashes, according to a memo obtained by Fox News.

Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, who previously announced he would retire early after two collisions at sea resulted in the deaths of 17 sailors, said in a memo to the fleet that crew members aboard all U.S. Navy ships will not stand five-hour watches any more. Instead, Rowden recommended switching to a standardized watch schedule that enables sailors to get more sleep.

The current schedule format, used on most warships at sea, varies the time of day that officers and sailors stand watch.

Rowden’s memo also directed all Navy warships to keep their Automatic Identification System on at all times in busy sea lanes.

“AIS shall be transmitted while transiting any traffic separation scheme and/or any high density traffic area,” the memo said.

While the AIS activation would alert potential adversaries about the presence of a U.S. warship, the system is designed primarily to alert merchant ships on autopilot and enable them to take evasive action if necessary. Both U.S. Navy warship collisions during the summer involved collisions with large merchant ships.

Navy spokesman Cmdr. John Perkins told Fox News the memo “gives flexibility for the operational commanders to manage AIS transmission in situations where mission-specific operational security, emission control or force protection conditions may preclude AIS transmission.”

The memo also outlined new “common business rules” in order to standardize the process aboard a warship’s bridge and engineering departments.

All radar contacts will also be tracked by hand using “maneuvering boards,” a standard for calculating distance away from another ship based on relative motion, a stable of shipboard life for decades aboard Navy ships.

Rowden’s retirement announcement made him one of several admirals to vacate their posts following the collisions.

The USS John S. McCain and an oil tanker collided in Southeast Asia last month, leaving 10 U.S. sailors dead and five injured. And seven sailors died in June when the USS Fitzgerald and a container ship collided in waters off Japan.

On Tuesday, top Navy leaders and lawmakers condemned the accidents as preventable.

“It is simply unacceptable for U.S. Navy ships to run aground or collide with other ships — and to have four such incidents in the span of seven months is truly alarming,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The USS John S. McCain is named after McCain’s father and grandfather.

Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, said commanders are ultimately responsible for ensuring their forces are combat ready and operating safely and effectively.

“I am accountable for the safe and effective operations of our Navy, and we will fix this,” Adm. Richardson said. “I own this problem.”

Richardson blamed what he called “a distorted perception of operational security” for keeping the AIS turned off.

“One of the immediate actions following these incidences particularly in heavily trafficked areas, we are just going to turn it on,” Richardson said.

Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va. asked Adm. Richardson if it was mistake to close down a six-month school in 2003 to train freshly minted officers before they reported aboard their ships.

“We thought we could achieve the aim and train surface warfare officers — junior-officers — with a computer-based approach combined with on the job training at sea and we found that was woefully inadequate,” the admiral said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews

$1 million bond set for man in wife's death, house explosion

Sep 19, 2017 0

Bond is set at $1 million for a Wisconsin man who authorities say killed his wife and tried to cover it up by blowing up their house.

Steven Pirus appeared in Dane County Circuit Court on Tuesday, four days after his wife’s body was found in the rubble of their Madison home. Prosecutors say they expect to charge him this week with first-degree intentional homicide.

Assistant District Attorney David Hart alleges Pirus fatally shot his 50-year-old wife, Anne, and then manipulated a gas line to cause the explosion. Police say Pirus claimed he killed his wife at her request but didn’t say why.

Public Defender David Klauser unsuccessfully sought a lower bail for Pirus. He declined to comment on the case, saying he hadn’t been appointed to represent Pirus beyond Tuesday’s hearing.

Ex-soldier convicted of threatening Fort Hood rampage

Sep 19, 2017 0

An ex-soldier from Texas has been convicted of making threats to go on a shooting rampage at Fort Hood.

A federal jury in Waco on Tuesday found Thomas Anthony Chestnut Jr. guilty of threatening a uniformed service member and using interstate communications to threaten injury. The 29-year-old Dripping Springs man could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison on Dec. 1.

Trial evidence showed Chestnut called Fort Hood in February saying he was a former soldier wrongly accused of a crime. He said he’d shoot soldiers at the Army post if he didn’t receive back pay.

In 2009, 13 people were killed and 31 others wounded in a shooting at Fort Hood. Nidal Hasan, a former U.S. Army major, was convicted and sentenced to death in that shooting.

Children's singer-songwriter facing child porn charges

Sep 19, 2017 0

A music teacher and singer-songwriter who performs for children at synagogues, Jewish community centers, camps and conventions nationwide is facing child pornography charges.

Federal prosecutors in New Jersey say Eric Komar was charged Tuesday with receiving and distributing images of child sexual abuse.

Prosecutors say Komar used a peer-to-peer file-sharing program to obtain and distribute images and videos of young children being sexually abused.

The 46-year-old Hillsborough man was represented at his initial court appearance by a federal public defender. That office does not comment on cases.

Komar was being held without bail. He faces five to 20 years in prison if he’s convicted.

Prosecutor: Officer justified in fatal shooting of teen

Sep 19, 2017 0

A Virginia police officer in the Washington, D.C., suburbs was justified in fatally shooting a 15-year-old boy who was advancing at him with a crowbar, a prosecutor ruled Tuesday.

Police on Tuesday identified the teen who was shot and killed Friday as Ruben Urbina of Haymarket, about 37 miles (60 kilometers) west of Washington.

At a press conference Tuesday, Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert said the boy had mental problems and attempted suicide the night before.

On the day of the shooting, the boy called 911 and claimed to have a bomb strapped to his chest, Ebert said. During the call, Ebert said the boy indicated he was holding his mother hostage and was willing to be shot by police.

Family members were unaware the boy had called 911, according to police.

When county police arrived, Ebert said officers saw the boy strike his brother’s girlfriend with a crowbar.

Ebert said the boy, wearing a heavy jacket, then advanced at one of the officers with the 3-foot crowbar, getting to within 10 feet of him before the officer fired two shots.

The boy died at the scene. He did not have a bomb, but Ebert said officers found out after the shooting that he was also carrying a knife.

The boy’s father, Oscar Urbina, told local news outlets Tuesday that he does not believe the shooting was justified and that his slightly built son could have been subdued with a stun gun.

None of the four officers at the scene were injured. Police on Tuesday identified the officer who fired the shots as Robert Choyce, 35, a 7-year veteran. While Ebert has closed the criminal investigation of the shooting, Police Chief Barry Barnard said an internal investigation is ongoing, but that “at this stage in our administrative investigation, the officer acted appropriately in response to dynamic circumstances.”

A police spokesman said Choyce is white. The spokesman declined to characterize Urbina’s race.

The girl who was struck with the crowbar was treated at a hospital and released.

Ebert said that despite concerns about the young man, “there comes a point in time where police have to do what they have to do.”

Photos: Jose inundates beaches from North Carolina to Massachusetts with coastal flooding

Sep 19, 2017 0

Hurricane Jose has been unleashing coastal flooding, beach erosion, gusty winds and rain to the mid-Atlantic and New England coasts.

Although Jose is not making landfall, hurricanes do not need to make landfall to cause significant adverse effects such as coastal flooding.

“After Tuesday night, conditions will be improving. The high tide tonight might be the worst, but after things will improve,” David Dombek, AccuWeather senior meteorologist, said.

According to Dombek, high tides will already be higher due to a new moon without the added effects from Jose.

Coastal flooding will hit the following areas the hardest: the eastern end of Long Island up across the Cape Cod area and in Martha’s Vineyard.

According to the Associated Press, coastal flooding from Hurricane Jose has prompted North Carolina to close parts of the main highway on the Outer Banks.

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North Wildwood, New Jersey. (Image via Instagram/sunbythesea)

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North Wildwood, New Jersey. (Image via Instagram/sunbythesea)

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North Wildwood, New Jersey. (Image via Instagram/sunbythesea)

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North Wildwood, New Jersey. (Image via Instagram/sunbythesea)

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Brooklyn, New York. (Image via Instagram/qwqw7575)

Riptide Bait and Tackle in Brigantine NJ with hurricane Jose Tidal effect updates. #brigantinenj #brigantineisland #brigantinebeach #hurricanejose

A post shared by Capt Andy (@riptide911) on

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Firefighter suspended after racist Facebook post resigns

Sep 19, 2017 0

A volunteer firefighter in Ohio suspended after a Facebook post in which he allegedly indicated he would save a dog from a burning building before a black person has resigned.

Officials say 20-year-old Tyler Roysdon resigned Monday from the Franklin Township Fire Department in southwest Ohio. He was suspended without pay after the fire chief learned of the post.

The post containing multiple racial slurs had been ordered removed by township officials, who called the content “unacceptable.”

A woman who identified herself to WXIX-TV as Joei Frame Roysdon said she’s Roysdon’s wife. She said he “admitted that he said things that were wrong and apologized.” She said everyone deserves a second chance.

A phone number could not be found for Tyler Roysdon.