13-year-old girl, mother charged in killing of Chicago 15-year-old

May 18, 2016 18
The undated photo at left shows Tamika Gayden, who has charged along with her daughter in the stabbing death of De'Kayla Dansberry, right.

The undated photo at left shows Tamika Gayden, who has charged along with her daughter in the stabbing death of De’Kayla Dansberry, right. (Chicago Police/Facebook)

A 13-year-old girl and her mother were charged with murder Tuesday in connection with the stabbing death of a 15-year-old girl over the weekend in Chicago. 

Prosecutors said the 13-year-old, who has not been publicly identified because she is a juvenile, got the knife from her mother, 35-year-old Tamika Gayden. The victim, 15-year-old De’Kayla Dansberry, was stabbed during a fight that broke out Saturday evening in front of a housing complex on the city’s South Side. 

Cook County Prosecutor Christina Hake, citing eyewitnesses, told a juvenile court hearing that the teen suspect tried to wash Dansberry’s blood off the knife when she got home, while repeatedly saying “I killed her. I killed her.” An eyewitness told authorites that the girl was “panicking” when she returned home. 

The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the mother and daughter turned themselves in to police, accompanied by an attorney.

Prosecutors said that video of the fight existed, but did not elaborate on its origins.

The 13-year-old pleaded not guilty and was remanded into custody by Cook County Judge Cynthia Ramirez. Gayden was charged with murder and felony contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Dansberry was an honor student and track star at Johnson College Prep, a local charter school. She was scheduled to run in a meet at Eastern Illinois University this Friday. 

Dansberry’s father, Julian Glanton, said he didn’t know what caused the fight. 

“I’m sure it was probably just children, like kid stuff,” he said. “But it shouldn’t have escalated to where someone was stabbed or anything like that.”

“I’m just lost for words,” Glanton added. “I don’t know what to say.”

Click for more from the Chicago Sun-Times.

$35G reward offered for information on shooting death in Milwaukee girl

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A $35,000 reward has been offered for information in the shooting death of a 9-year-old Milwaukee girl who was struck by a bullet fired from outside her home earlier this month, authorities announced Tuesday.

Milwaukee police said in a statement Za’layia Jenkins was pronounced brain-dead Monday, just a day before her 10th birthday. However, John Jones, a cousin, said that the girl was still on life support.

“Today is Zalayia’s 10th birthday,” Mayor Tom Barrett said at a news conference where the rewards were announced. “Tenth birthdays should be celebrated by a little girl with her friends, with her family. Instead we are standing here. We’re standing here because senseless violence has once again disrupted this community in a way that any parent could never ever, ever accept.”

The FBI offered $10,000 toward the reward, while Milwaukee attorney Michael Hupy kicked in $25,000 for information leading to the shooter or shooters.

“This is the third time in the last year that I have felt compelled to come forward as a citizen to offer a $25,000 reward when a young child has been shot and killed or injured by bullets coming through walls and windows of their own home. We cannot tolerate a society where children are murdered. Parents — I know you can bring your children up to be better than the gang members who did this,” Hupy said.

Za’layia was shot May 5 as she watched TV, while two groups with rifles and pistols engaged in a shootout outside, police said. Capt. Aaron Raap said investigators don’t know whether the shooting was random and haven’t ruled out that the home was targeted.

According to Fox 6 Now, tips aren’t coming into investigators as quickly as they hoped. Raap said they hope the reward will result in more tip calls and eventually arrests.

Family members participated in a march Tuesday afternoon to protest the violence.

“Turn yourself in,” said one of Za’layia’s aunts, Keyana Boone. “How do you sleep at night? You took an innocent life. A 9-year-old. She didn’t do nothing to nobody. I don’t understand how they sleep at night.”

Police still are searching for a green Jeep Cherokee whose driver may have information about the shooting. Raap said it doesn’t mean the vehicle was involved in the shooting, but they believe the person inside the vehicle could have something to do with it.

“If you hear something — say something. If you’ve seen something — say something. There is no higher priority for the (Milwaukee Police) Department than (this case),” Raap added.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click for more from Fox 6 Now.

Police: Boy walking home fatally stabbed in Houston street

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Authorities say a young boy was stabbed to death while walking home from school in Texas.

Police say the boy was walking down a street in Houston on Tuesday afternoon when an unidentified man walking the opposite direction stabbed the child repeatedly before running away from the scene.

Relatives of the boy told local media outlets he was 11. Authorities have not released the boy’s name or age.

Houston police Sgt. Tommy Ruland says the attack was “unprovoked.” The suspect is still being sought by police, and the investigation is ongoing.

Authorities investigate suspicious death of prominent Dallas lawyer

May 18, 2016 158

Authorities in Dallas asked the public for information about the suspicious death of a prominent lawyer and the burning of his home.

Ira Tobolowsky was found dead inside the garage of his burning North Dallas home on Friday. The fire has been labeled as suspicious by arson investigators but officials haven’t released details or identified any suspects in Tobolowsky’s death.

Steve Schottmer, Tobolowsky’s lawyer, told Fox 4 News that an accelerant was found inside the garage that shouldn’t have been there. Scottmer said his client wouldn’t have stored any type of chemicals into home because he was unable to do any kind of physical labor.

Arson investigators asked Schottmer if there was anyone that had litigation against Tobolowsky or if there was anyone who had been angry at him. Schottmer told investigators he did have someone in mind.

“The gentleman that I identified had brought a lawsuit against his mother who was the trustee of the family trust,” Schottmer told Fox 4 News.

Tobolowsky was involved in a long-running legal battle with the mother in the lawsuit. There was supposed to be a hearing in the case Wednesday.

Dallas Judge Eric Moye, who is hearing the case, had extra security placed at his home after hearing about what happened to Tobolowsky and extra bailiffs were placed at the courthouse.

Authorities told Moye to be on extra alert, Fox 4 News reported. Moye said he had someone following him on a Dallas highway.

A picture of his car was posted on Facebook with a message saying the driver of the car pulled a gun on her. Moye said he thought the driver was tailgating him and placed a gun on the passenger seat of his car.

Click for more from Fox 4 News.

Colorado babysitter allegedly takes kids to bank robbery planned to pay back stolen money

May 18, 2016 173
Rachel Einspahr.

Rachel Einspahr. (Weld County Sheriff’s Office)

A babysitter is accused of using two children she was watching to help her rob a bank — a heist allegedly planned to help her pay back money stolen from her employers.

Rachel Einspahr, 28, went to the drive-thru at the Colorado East Bank & Trust in Severance — about 65 miles north of Denver — on Friday after picking two sisters after school, according to the Weld County Sheriff’s Office.

She allegedly sent a note through the vacuum tube demanding money for a man in the back of her Nissan Pathfinder threatening to hurt the girls, who are 7 and 1½ years old. The teller, believing the children were in danger, gave her $500, sheriff’s spokesman Matt Turner said.

The girls were not hurt, and one told investigators there never was a man in the vehicle with them.

According to an arrest affidavit, first reported by the Greeley Tribune Tuesday, Einspahr allegedly told investigators she wanted to rob the bank to pay back $15,000 of the money she previously stole under a possible plea agreement. Court documents don’t list who is representing her in the bank robbery case, but lawyers who have represented her in the previous cases didn’t return calls seeking comment.

According to the document, Einspahr, who is in jail, told detectives she first considered robbing a bank in larger nearby Greeley but then went back to Severance to pick up the children. She said she drove around for a while, bought the girls lollipops at a gas station and then removed her license plates and wrote a note for the teller on a side street before going ahead with the alleged robbery at a bank about a half mile from her home, the document said. After the robbery, investigators said she took the children to a park to play so she could put the plates back on.

Deputies, using surveillance video from the bank, found Einspahr’s SUV parked in front of her house and arrested her.

She is scheduled to appear in court in the theft cases on Wednesday, when prosecutors are also expected to file charges against her in the bank robbery.

Amtrak victims: Investigative findings hard to believe

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  • Members of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) votes on a motion to adopt an explanation for the derailment of an Amtrak passenger train that derailed in Philadelphia last year, Tuesday, May 17, 2016, during their board meeting in Washington. Board members, from left are; T. Bella Dihn-Zarr, Ph.D. vice chair, Christopher Hart, chairman, Robert Sumwalt, member, and Earl Weener, Ph.D., member. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

    Members of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) votes on a motion to adopt an explanation for the derailment of an Amtrak passenger train that derailed in Philadelphia last year, Tuesday, May 17, 2016, during their board meeting in Washington. Board members, from left are; T. Bella Dihn-Zarr, Ph.D. vice chair, Christopher Hart, chairman, Robert Sumwalt, member, and Earl Weener, Ph.D., member. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen) (The Associated Press)

  • Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman speaks with the news media following a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) meeting in Washington, Tuesday, May 17, 2016, on the derailment of an Amtrak passenger train in Philadelphia last year. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

    Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman speaks with the news media following a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) meeting in Washington, Tuesday, May 17, 2016, on the derailment of an Amtrak passenger train in Philadelphia last year. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen) (The Associated Press)

  • Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman speaks with the news media following a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) meeting in Washington, Tuesday, May 17, 2016, on the derailment of an Amtrak passenger train in Philadelphia last week. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

    Amtrak CEO Joseph Boardman speaks with the news media following a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) meeting in Washington, Tuesday, May 17, 2016, on the derailment of an Amtrak passenger train in Philadelphia last week. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen) (The Associated Press)

Victims of last year’s deadly Amtrak derailment aren’t buying the findings of federal investigators that the train’s engineer likely lost his bearings because he was distracted by an incident with a nearby train.

Through lawyers, they called the National Transportation Safety Board’s cause determination frustrating, disappointing and hard to believe. One lawyer called Tuesday’s explanation a “whitewash.” Another said it was a “quantum leap.”

Instead of closure, they said, the official report on the May 12, 2015 wreck only prompted more questions.

“We’ve reached the end and there’s no conclusion,” lawyer Fred Eisenberg said.

Having ruled out other factors including equipment problems and cell phone use, investigators determined that engineer Brandon Bostian lost track of where he was after hearing on the radio that a commuter train had been struck with a rock.

At the same time, investigators said, Bostian accelerated full-throttle, causing the train to reach 106 mph as it entered a sharp curve with a 50 mph speed limit.

“Excluding all the other suspects that we looked at, the best we could come up with was that he was distracted from this radio conversation about the damaged train and forgot where he was,” NTSB chairman Christopher Hart said.

Eight people aboard the Washington-to-New York train were killed. Four of them were ejected through emergency windows that dislodged as the cars slid on their sides, investigators said. More than 200 people were injured.

Bostian, who has been suspended without pay since the crash, did not attend the hearing. He and his lawyer did not return calls and emails seeking comment.

Duy Nguyen, of Teaneck, New Jersey, a passenger who suffered a cut on his head and fractures in his back when he was thrown across a car, attended the NTSB hearing. The Temple University professor said he was puzzled by the findings.

“The part that doesn’t make sense is how does one accelerate when you’re distracted?” Nguyen said. “The inclination is to slow down.”

No evidence exists to support the NTSB’s conclusion, lawyer Judy Livingston said, calling it “an awful explanation to the families who have lost loved ones.”

Livingston represents the family of Justin Zemser, a Naval Academy midshipman who was killed on his way home to New York. Their feeling, she said, was after waiting so long for answers, “the answers they came up with were woefully inadequate.”

Lawyer Tom Kline said the NTSB’s findings “are based on speculation” and would not be admissible in any court.

NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said Tuesday night that investigators would have preferred more evidence, like video from an inward facing camera in the locomotive that would have allowed them to review Bostian’s actions.

“We can only evaluate the evidence that we have,” Knudson said. “And the preponderance of evidence that we had to work with pointed us to a loss of situational awareness.”

The NTSB said a contributing factor in the derailment was the railroad industry’s decades-long failure to fully install positive train control — GPS-based technology that can automatically slow trains that are going over the speed limit.

Had positive train control been in use at the curve at the time of the derailment “we would not be here today,” said NTSB investigator Ted Turpin.

T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, the board’s vice chairman, urged the panel to put more blame on the lack of positive train control, arguing it would have prevented the train from going too fast when Bostian became distracted.

“Eight people have died, dozens more have been injured — life-changing injuries — because the government and industry have not acted for decades on a well-known safety hazard,” Dinh-Zarr said. “I ask, why does our probable cause focus on a human’s mistake and what he may have been distracted by?”

Over the last 20 years, the NTSB has listed the lack of positive train control as a contributing factor in 25 crashes, Chairman Christopher Hart said, including fatal wrecks in Chatsworth, California in 2008 and New York City in 2013.

Amtrak has installed positive train control on all of the track it owns between Washington and Boston, but a 56-mile state-owned stretch between New Rochelle, New York and New Haven, Connecticut still doesn’t have the technology.

Throughout the rest of the country, Amtrak operates on track owned by freight carriers, many of which have lagged in installing positive train control. Congress last year pushed the deadline to the end of 2018 and left the possibility that railroads could get another two years to complete the work.

Ed Greenberg, of the Association for American Railroads, said positive train control is a priority for freight carriers. They are working through testing and installation “as quickly as possible, without sacrificing safety” and are on schedule to implement the technology by the new deadline, he said.

Bostian was known among his friends for his safety-mindedness and love of railroading. Before the crash, he apparently commented in an online forum for train enthusiasts, lamenting that railroads hadn’t been fast enough to adopt positive train control.

That history of conscientiousness makes the NTSB’s explanation all the more hard to accept, veteran Amtrak engineer Karl Edler said. “What is the evidence that that is what happened?” he asked.

In a statement, Amtrak said it “deeply regrets the tragic derailment” and will carefully review the NTSB findings and recommendations and quickly adopt them where appropriate.

Amtrak already has taken responsibility for the crash, and its liability is capped under federal law at $295 million, which could easily be exhausted, given the number of deaths and serious injuries.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office is helping the NTSB on the investigation, but a spokesman would not comment on the possibility of criminal charges.

The NTSB also recommended research into train seat belts and ways to secure luggage that can become missiles in a derailment; training for crew members on multitasking; and new equipment and procedures to help engineers keep track of their location in spots where there is no positive train control.

Eisenberg’s client, Kate Varnum, suffered a shattered pelvis and multiple hip fractures when the train’s third car left the tracks and landed on its side. After months of rehabilitation and multiple hip surgeries, she can walk with assistance, but struggles to perform normal tasks.

She vented to Eisenberg about Tuesday’s findings.

“She just feels like it’s not an explanation,” Eisenberg said of the NTSB’s findings. “Even if it was that he spaced out because he was thinking about the rock, that really is a poor excuse for putting their lives at risk.”

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Associated Press writers Maryclaire Dale and Errin Haines Whack in Philadelphia contributed to this story.

Maine’s top court upholds bra escape conviction

May 18, 2016 115

Maine’s highest court has upheld the escape conviction of a woman who tried to avoid arrest by telling police that she needed to put on a bra before going to jail.

A lower court judge had sentenced Tracy Dorweiler of Bangor to 14 days behind bars for using the bra excuse to climb out of a bedroom window, but she contended she never escaped because she was never physically placed into custody.

The state Supreme Judicial Court issued its decision on Tuesday.

The court concluded that the officer’s statement that he was there to arrest Dorweiler and her “show of submission” before her escape provided sufficient evidence that she knew she was under arrest. Her lawyer is filing a petition for reconsideration.

Closings in 4th murder trial of upstate NY businessman

May 18, 2016 140

Closing arguments are scheduled for Wednesday in the fourth murder trial of a wealthy New York man accused of killing his estranged wife in 2001.

Calvin Harris is accused of killing 35-year-old Michele Harris, who disappeared the night of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Prosecutors say he killed her when she came home to their Southern Tier estate.

A judge in Schoharie County will hear the arguments, seven weeks after the start of the non-jury trial.

Defense lawyers say authorities overlooked possible suspects she met during the freewheeling life she led as her marriage broke up.

Michele Harris’ body has never been found and prosecutors have relied on a largely circumstantial case.

Two previous guilty verdicts against Harris were overturned. A third trial last year ended in a mistrial.

Lawyers for suspect in Ohio cop’s slaying want off case

May 18, 2016 128

Two attorneys appointed to represent a man accused of fatally shooting a central Ohio policeman are asking to withdraw from the potential death penalty case.

Bruce Malek and Brandon Crunkilton told the court that it’s not feasible for them to continue representing Herschel Ray Jones III because of issues that have arisen. Malek told the Mount Vernon News (http://bit.ly/1OCu8hk ) that he wouldn’t discuss specifics of those issues.

An attorney from the Ohio public defender’s office also is representing Jones.

Jones is accused of shooting 34-year-old Danville Officer Thomas Cottrell. He has pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder and other charges in Knox County.

Cottrell’s body was found behind the village’s municipal building Jan. 17, after Jones’ ex-girlfriend warned police that Jones was “looking to kill a cop.”

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Information from: Mount Vernon News, http://www.mountvernonnews.com

Charges withdrawn against boxer Spadafora in store incident

May 18, 2016 127

Prosecutors have withdrawn charges against former lightweight boxing champ Paul Spadafora, who was accused of holding a knife in front of a convenience store worker.

Police said last month that Spadafora, known as The Pittsburgh Kid, appeared to be yelling at a Manor Township convenience store clerk while drunkenly holding a blueberry muffin and a tactical knife.

Defense attorney Phil DiLucente tells the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1TeU0Ss ) Spadafora was using the knife to put cream cheese on the muffin. Charges in the incident were withdrawn on Tuesday.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled on Thursday for charges in an incident hours earlier at a suburban Pittsburgh bar.

Police say Spadafora put a 63-year-old woman in a headlock, drank her beer and threw her to the pavement when she went to call police.